Derailed? Third GOP governor rejects Obama high-speed rail plan.
Gov. Rick Scott of Florida declines $2 billion of federal money in deciding not to build a Orlando-to-Tampa high-speed rail line. Two other governors have made similar moves. It suggests a rocky road ahead for Obama's $53 billion rail plan in the Republican House.
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The most promising places in the US for high-speed rail, experts say, are the Northeast and California. Already, half of the $1.2 billion rejected by Ohio and Wisconsin in December has been reallocated to California, where state voters in 2008 approved $10 billion in bonds to begin the San Francisco-to-Anaheim section of a high-speed rail project.Skip to next paragraph
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Proponents of high-speed rail criticized the three Republican governors' decisions. “The governors are sadly ill-advised and probably haven’t stopped and thought about what kind of transportation system this country really needs,” says Gil Carmichael, founding chairman of the board of directors of the Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Denver. “The system we have now is gawdy, wasteful, polluting and dangerous.”
Tough going ahead?
But Republicans in the US House are not likely to be swayed by such arguments. "The GOP governors' rejection of high-speed rail money foreshadows a hostile fate for the administration's plans in the Republican House,” says Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.
For now, many Republicans appear to be holding firm to the tea party's limited-government doctrine. “Republicans across the country are determined to demonstrate to voters that they are serious about shrinking the size of the federal government and its discretionary spending programs,” says Lara Brown, a political scientist at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.
The three governors may be tearing a page from the playbook of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who derailed plans for a partially federally-funded train tunnel project to connect New Jersey and Manhattan. He said the state could not afford to continue the project, and a Quinnipiac poll last week showed that his approval rating has improved to 52 percent – up 6 percentage points since December.
“Republicans, Governor Scott included, are betting on the long-term outweighing the short-term – and that is something that is not typical in politics," says Professor Brown. "Clearly, however, they believe that if they become known as the fiscally responsible party, they will not only win the 2012 cycle, but that voters will continue to trust them with the reins of government for many election cycles to come.”